When we look back on the season at the end of the year, there’s a good possibility that last weekend will represent its low point.
A blown lead against Toronto followed by another embarrassing performance at home against Edmonton seemed unacceptable over the last couple of days, but last night’s 5-0 drubbing of Pittsburgh was a good reminder that the Blueshirts are capable of much more.
Any team can dominate on any given night in the NHL, but only two can say they were in the Stanley Cup Final last year, so the Rangers’ best efforts carry a little more weight than a team like the Oilers.
Many people have an issue giving a professional sports team excuses, but Alain Vigneault’s club has a good one. What other team would play .500 hockey without its No. 1 center, No. 1 defenseman and power play quarterback? (Yes, Stepan played in both games over the weekend, but he’s far from himself).
Team defense has been a huge, huge issue for the team early on, but if you don’t cut the Blueshirts a little slack given the patchwork blueline unit they’ve been deploying, then you’re just being stubborn.
In addition to the team-wide defensive woes, mistake-prone youngsters, the anchor on the unsettled fourth line that is Tanner Glass, a mere three total goals from the blueline (all by Kevin Klein) and the anemic power play have failed to make things easier for the club. (The mighty Penguins have been perhaps the best team in the league so far, but they weren’t so scary without a power play goal, of which they’ve racked up a ridiculous 21 to New York’s six).
The Rangers’ strengths remain their unmatched goaltending and speed, and both were on full display against the Penguins. The Blueshirts dominated the same team that ended up firing its coach and general manager – in addition to making numerous player personnel changes – after falling to New York last season. Again, the Penguins couldn’t handle them. Will the rest of the league be able to when the Blueshirts are finally at full strength?